Obituary: David R. Wright 1939-2009

Article excerpt

David Wright, who died of cancer in November 2009, never lost his fascination for places. He is probably most widely known for the Philip's Children's Atlas but he should also be remembered for many other publications through which he showed his commitment to stimulating young people's interest in the world and to campaigning for what he believed in.

David read geography at St Catherine's College, Cambridge University. After graduating and studying for his PGCE, he taught geography at Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage and at Mt. Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania. Shortly after his return to England he moved to Norwich to work as a teacher educator at Keswick Hall College of Education (1969-1981) which later became the School of Education in the University of East Anglia (1981-1994). Following his early retirement in 1994 he became a self-employed author, school inspector and consultant. He served the Norfolk branch of the Geographical Association as both Chair and as President.

David's life-long interest in places, stamps and trains was evident from childhood. At the age of 10 he created a 'country' in his back garden, complete with currency, stamps and stations. Later as a teacher and then a parent he shared these passions with his students and his children. In his first teaching post, according to one of his students, 'he used to take us on mini expeditions enjoying the delights of quarries, rubbish dumps, gravel pits and the last day of trains on the Buntingford Branch. A truly inspired man. He gave me a lifelong passion for travel and geography.' From his home at Mulbarton, near Norwich, he enjoyed taking his children to Norfolk beaches, particularly on stormy days when they could see erosion taking place.

David always loved travelling. By the end of the 1960s, when travel abroad was lesson common than today, David had organised school trips to Italy and Morocco and had travelled to many European countries, South Africa, the USA and had got as far as Iran on the Hippy Bus to India. Jill, whom he married in 1972, shared this passion and they travelled together all over the world, using many of the photographs they took in their atlases. By the end of his life, David had visited 106 countries.

David's whole family has been involved in his publications. The Ph/7/ps Children's Atlas, first published in 1987 and now in its 12th edition, was written jointly by David and Jill. It received a GA award for 'making a significant contribution to geography' and has been hugely successful, having sold over a million copies worldwide. David and Jill are co-authors of a further 14 books. The Philip's Early Years Atlas and Philip's Infant School Atlas, published in 2009, were jointly written by David and his daughter, Rachel Noonan, using her children (his grandchildren) as 'special advisors'. David and Jill's son, Steven, designed and created their website:

David published over 100 articles, mostly related to geographical education but some related to his interests in stamps, railways and hymns. …